The first Scottish action of the season attracted a decent crowd to Friars Haugh, Kelso on Sunday for the Jedforest fixture and 45 of the 57 horses entered (after taking out 9 double entries) faced the starter on a seven race card.
Cave Hunter looked better than ever on his reappearance with a pillar to post victory under Tom Hamilton in the Gain Horse Feeds Men's Open Race. Comfortably setting the fastest time of the day, the 10 year old quickened right away from Top Cat Henry after two out to score by six lengths. Niel Manning's charge has now won 8 of his 11 Pointing starts since joining Wendy Hamilton's yard in 2013.
Tom, who has been based with Joseph O'Brien since October, flew over the previous day and was returning to Ireland on Sunday evening.
Damiens Dilemma can be difficult to pass when he gets into a good rhythm and made all under a great ride from Harriett Bryce in the Skinner's Pet Foods Ladies Open Race. Wind Of Hope (Rachael McDonald) tried hard to get on terms in the closing stages but was still a neck down at the line. "If he comes out of the race well, the plan is to run next in a Musselburgh Hunters' Chase on Saturday 4th February," said owner, Robert Miller-Bakewell, while Harriett added: "He's a star. He loves being out in front and kept finding a bit more. I didn't think I would get the ride back from Sam Coltherd after he won on him at Hexham last June."
There was a popular local success for Molten Brown (Joanna Walton) in the Storagexpress and Border Berries Border Hunts Club Members Race. Owned and trained by Northern Area Secretary, Tony Hogarth, the 12 year old found another gear after the last to head Great Gusto close home and score by half a length. Joanna is currently working for Cork-based point-to-point trainer, Damian Murphy, who is probably best known for winning the 2006 Cheltenham Foxhunters' Chase on Whyso Mayo.
The Bevin family from Oakham have enjoyed their trips north this season and made it 4 winners at the first 3 Northern Area fixtures with a double courtesy of For A Change and Dynamic Island. Under a positive ride from Rory Bevin in the Musselburgh Racecourse and Royal Dick Vet Intermediate Race, For A Change kept his rivals at bay from the fifth and kept on well to beat Fight Away Boys by half a length in a good time.
Dynamic Island is still on an upward curve and followed up his recent Alnwick Maiden success in the Edmund Vestey Restricted Race. Sent on three out, the 6 year old stayed on strongly to score by a couple of lengths from Asheanymoney with the promising Eco Warrior a similar distance away in third.
As well as being a first double for Rory, this was also a first training double for his mother, Louise, who remarked: "He probably needs to do a bit more revision, as he's in the middle of final year exams at Newcastle University," before embarking on a six hour drive home in the horsebox.
Another long distance traveller, Henry Morshead, 19, faced a 315 mile drive back to Andoversford near Cheltenham where he is based with Kim Bailey but at least he did enjoy a winner on Premier Blanc in the 2 runner Jockey Club & Charlotte Agnew Eventing Mares Open Maiden Race. The partnership was left solo after Ginginny unseated John Dawson at the first. The winner carried the colours of Lord Christopher Leigh, who retired from point-to-point commentary duties last season after around 30 years on the circuit.
The concluding 12 runner Turcan Connell and Billy Stenhouse Memorial Open Maiden Race went to Takethepunishment in the hands of Nick Orpwood. Victoria McKie's 7 year old home-bred half brother to Crazy Diamond sealed a two lengths victory over Towerburn (Joe Wright) with another great jump at the last. There were also very promising runs from Hey Listen (3rd) and debutant Matthew Man (4th).
The next fixture at Friars Haugh is the Duke of Buccleuch's on Sunday 19th March.